I missed this because the the Nork train explosion but the OOP (Our Open Party, Uri) had a workshop on Monday to put together an agenda for the 17th National Assembly. At the meeting, they decided to put forth a party line favoring "pragmatism" over "reform." Basically, the OOP leadership has decided not to operate under any ideological standards. Here are a couple of interesting quotes from party chairman Chung Dong-young :
"The Uri Party is a pragmatic party in which progressive conservatives and progressive reformers co-exist... We don't agree with pragmatism premised on ideas that forbid reform, nor do we agree with reform that thinks everyone should think the same as the progressives....."
"We're talking of 'conservative' and 'progressive,' but ideology can change from person to person and from situation to situation... In the end, one mustn't be confined by ideological fences; one must become free from ideological rigidity....."
"We must take our parliamentary power, secured by the democratization generation, and increase both the participation and authority of the citizens... For this, if you think we need legal and media reforms, we must start them, but before that, we need the support of the people, and we need to regulate positions and speeds."
Chung's course makes sense considering the shakey nature of the bonds which join the various OOP factions together. It means that an OOP break-up in the short term is less likely. Furthermore, by the time those internal tensions become more pronounced (I guess by the end of the year), the party's power structure will be too entrenched to be easily cast out and I doubt that even seriously frustrated members would want to give up their share of the majority party.
So we have a non-ideological "reform" party which has tried to place itself outside of the normal range of political debate in a bid to take the politics out of politics so it can become a permanent majority party and which has several factions which will forever compete for control of that non-ideological party. I think I have heard of that before but where? Hmmmmm......
Let me think.....
Oh my God! The OOP is becoming Korea's Liberal Democratic Party!
For those not familiar with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), it has been the ruling party in Japan for something like 47 of the last 50 years. Like the OOP, it is all over the board ideologically (although with a little more conservative base than the OOP currently has) and has several factions which vie for control. Here is a little more:
As politics in Japan is based more on political patronage than ideology, the LDP has no strict program. It is conservative in the sense that it is strongly probusiness in fact, it was founded to keep Japan from falling under Socialist rule. But the LDP has instituted environmental programs that are radical by Western standards and has adopted welfare policies away from its socialist rivals.....That last sentence is revealing. When President Roh recently announced that he was going to join the OOP, he stressed that he was not going to challenge Chung's leadership. That puts them more in league with the LDP than western parliamentary systems, where the party head becomes the prime minister or the United States, where the President is always considered to be the head of the party.
Despite the elaborate official party structure, the LDP is in fact run by a system of around 12 political factions. Each of the factions is led by a handful of Diet members who vie for power in the party and the government. Members of various factions are usually represented in the government, and the main objective among the factions is the party presidency. The party president serves as the prime minister as long as the party stays in power. While the prime minister is the highest public official in the land, under LDP rule he or she is usually under the power of the party faction leader.
Interestingly enough, Chung also tried to cast the Grand National Party (GNP) as non-ideological as well:
If you look at Western ideologies, progressives and conservatives are delineated in accordance with the level in which they believe the state should involve itself in the economy; in our country, it has been the Sunshine Policy that has been used as the ideological yardstick to separate progressives from conservatives... Yet the GNP has come out in favor of providing cash aid to North Korea in connection with the Ryongchon Station disaster and is moving toward changing its confrontational attitude toward the North, so the Sunshine Policy's utility as an ideological yardstick is becoming less clear than in the past."To a degree, Chung is right about the GNP. They also are a collection of different ideologies that were united in the past by their desire to be near the centers of power, including the chaebol (conglomerates) and authoritarian rulers. The GNP needs to get its house in order and become a real opposition party. There are a lot of problems with the OOP's agenda but they will get away with it if the GNP is not ready to call them out. In other words, the GNP needs to be ready to be Frazier to the OOP's Ali.
He said, "The GNP is a far-right Cold War party, not a conservative party... The Uri Party is a sincere reform party in which moderate conservatives and moderate progressives healthily co-exist."
Her are a couple of potential planks for a GNP platform:
-Maintain a pro-business environment. Koreans are an entrepreneurial people. The government should not over regulate the economy.
-On dealing with North Korea, one word: reciprocity. What will North Korea do to open up in return for the South scraping the National Security Law? In a broader sense, inter-Korean relations need to involve more give-and-take.
The OOP has already shown that it will try to avoid committing itself to any ideology. It is up to the GNP to call them out and make them declare their basic ideals. If the GNP can't do that, then they should be ready to be a minority party for a long, long time.